KWAME NKRUMAH: AN ICON OF PAN-AFRICAN­ISM

As mid­night struck on March 6, 1957, the for­mi­da­ble Gold Coast be­came the Ghana we know to­day, Prime Min­is­ter Kwame Nkrumah de­clared: 'We are go­ing to see that we cre­ate our own African per­son­al­ity and iden­tity. We again reded­i­cate our­selves in the strugg

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Kwame Nkrumah - Words: KRISTIE OMAR

the an­tic­i­pa­tion, fear and ex­cite­ment that the then Gold Coast cit­i­zens had can be felt in Kwame Nkrumah’s words when he spoke. Ghana was free. Free from colo­nial­ism, ready to take on the world. But what of the man who had pi­o­neered this coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence, mak­ing it the first African coun­try to achieve in­de­pen­dence? Who ex­actly was this man com­mand­ing the at­ten­tion of mil­lions of Ghana­ians on that defining day of March 6 1957: ‘See­ing you in this… It doesn’t mat­ter how far my eyes go, I can see that you are here in your mil­lions. And my last warn­ing to you is that you are to stand firm be­hind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is some­body!’ We of­ten hear of pi­o­neers of Pan–African­ism, its fa­thers and orig­i­na­tors. It is com­monly for­got­ten what the orig­i­nal mean­ing is, and the im­pact and ne­ces­sity it has on the con­ti­nent. Pan-African­ist ideals emerged in the late nine­teenth cen­tury in re­sponse to Euro­pean coloni­sa­tion and ex­ploita­tion of the African con­ti­nent. These de­struc­tive be­liefs in turn gave birth to in­ten­si­fied forms of racism, the likes of which Pan-African­ism sought to elim­i­nate. Minkah Makalani of Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity de­scribed Pan–African­ism as: ‘…. ac­tu­ally re­flect­ing a range of po­lit­i­cal views. At a ba­sic level, it is a be­lief that African peo­ples, both on the African con­ti­nent and in the Di­as­pora, share not merely a com­mon his­tory, but a com­mon des­tiny. This sense of in­ter­con­nected pasts and fu­tures has taken many forms, es­pe­cially in the creation of po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions.’ THE BIRTH OF AN ICON – Kwame Nkrumah And one such great po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion that was cre­ated was that of Ghana. The face be­hind this first of its kind great­ness was that of Kwame Nkrumah. Ev­ery mother hopes for great­ness when they first hold their child in their arms. One tends to won­der what the sim­ple re­tail trader El­iz­a­beth Nyani­bah (Kwame Nkrumah’s mother) imag­ined her son to be on the 21st of Septem­ber 1909 when she gave birth to him. Born Fran­cis Nwia Kofi Ngonloma in Nkro­ful, formely Gold Coast (now Ghana) to a gold­smith and re­tail trader for par­ent, Nkrumah spent nine years at a Ro­man Catholic el­e­men­tary school in the area. Ded­i­cated to the in­sti­tute of ed­u­ca­tion, Kwame man­aged to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of Dr Kw­e­gyir Ag­grey, As­sis­tant Vice-Prin­ci­pal and the first African mem­ber of staff at the then Prince of Wales’ Col­lege at Achi­mota, se­cur­ing him as a child­hood men­tor, while look­ing up to him for in­spi­ra­tion. All this hap­pened, as he was pur­su­ing his teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion at the school. Dr Ag­grey was the first African mem­ber of the col­lege staff and his pres­ence at the school did much to spark the flames of na­tion­al­ism in the young Nkrumah. Af­ter Ag­grey’s death in 1929, Nkrumah de­cided to fur­ther his ed­u­ca­tion in the United States of Amer­ica. De­spite fac­ing five years of fi­nan­cial chal­lenges in or­der to leave, he suc­cess­fully man­aged to leave and se­cure a BA de­gree from Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity in 1939. He also re­ceived an STB (Bach­e­lor of Sa­cred The­ol­ogy) in 1942, a Master of Science in ed­u­ca­tion from the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia in 1942, and a Master of Arts in Phi­los­o­phy the fol­low­ing year. Dur­ing his life­time, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doc­tor-

With con­stant im­pris­on­ments Nkrumah man­aged to se­cure the po­si­tion of Prime Min­is­ter of a new in­de­pen­dent Ghana, af­ter the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment re­al­ized there was no do­ing away with him.

ates by Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity, Moscow State Uni­ver­sity, Cairo Uni­ver­sity, Jagiel­loni­aan Uni­ver­sity in Krakow, Poland, and Hum­boldt Uni­ver­sity in for­mer East Ger­many. PO­LIT­I­CAL STRUG­GLE Dr Nkrumah was in­vited to serve as the Gen­eral Sec­re­tary to the United Gold Coast Con­ven­tion (UGCC) un­der Dr Joseph Boakye Dan­quah. He re­turned to Ghana in 1947 to take up the po­si­tion, but split from it in 1949 to form the Con­ven­tion Peo­ple's Party (CPP). This was the be­gin­ning of the party’s con­stant re­sis­tance to­wards its gov­ern­ment. In 1948, Nkrumah was ar­rested along with other party mem­bers, af­ter the po­lice sus­pected the party’s in­volve­ment in the re­cent ri­ots that spurred up in Ac­cra, Ku­masi and other parts of the then Gold Coast. This hap­pened af­ter po­lice fired on a group of protest­ing ex-ser­vice­man. Af­ter he was re­leased, he started work­ing pas­sion­ately to­wards the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial bet­ter­ment of Gold Coast. Many co­coa farm­ers, trade unions and women sup­ported his way of think­ing. In 1949, he formed a new party, The Con­ven­tion Peo­ple’s Party. Nkrumah’s be­lief in mo­bil­is­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble had re­sulted in the raising of con­scious­ness among Ghana­ians, many of whom soon be­gan to ar­tic­u­late po­lit­i­cal demands, which were ahead of the United Gold Coast Con­ven­tion (UGCC). Whereas the lat­ter’s pol­icy was cen­tred on “self-gov­ern­ment within the short­est pos­si­ble time”, demands were al­ready be­ing made for "self-gov­ern­ment now". Af­ter var­i­ous im­pris­on­ments, Nkrumah man­aged to se­cure the po­si­tion of Prime Min­is­ter of a new in­de­pen­dent Ghana, af­ter the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment re­lin­quished power. On March 6 1957, Ghana was de­clared free by the first Prime Min­is­ter of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, as it be­came the first of Bri­tain’s colonies to gain in­de­pen­dence. Cel­e­bra­tions in Ac­cra were the fo­cus of world at­ten­tion with scores of in­ter­na­tional re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers cov­er­ing the event. Richard Nixon rep­re­sented United States Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower at the event, while the Duchess of Kent rep­re­sented Queen El­iz­a­beth. Global con­grat­u­la­tions and of­fers of as­sis­tance poured in from across the world, al­though Ghana was pros­per­ous al­ready with co­coa prices high and the po­ten­tial of new re­source devel­op­ment. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King were some of the no­table guests that at­tended Ghana’s in­de­pen­dence cer­e­mony. King’s voy­age was sym­bolic of a growing global al­liance of op­pressed peo­ples and was strate­gi­cally well timed; his at­ten­dance rep­re­sented an at­tempt to broaden the scope of the civil rights strug­gle in the United States on the heels of the successful Montgomery bus boy­cott. King iden­ti­fied with Ghana’s strug­gle; fur­ther­more, he recog­nised a strong par­al­lel be­tween re­sis­tance against Euro­pean colo­nial­ism in Africa and the strug­gle against racism in the United States. With years of hard work and po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing, he then de­clared his plans to make Ghana a repub­lic. The pres­i­den­tial

elec­tion and plebiscite on the con­sti­tu­tion were held in 1960 and the con­sti­tu­tion was changed, which led to Kwame Nkrumah’s elec­tion as the Pres­i­dent of Ghana. ECO­NOMIC LEGA­CIES The eco­nomic lega­cies of Pres­i­dent Nkrumah in­clude the build­ing of Tema Town­ship, the Ac­cra-Tema Mo­tor­way, Komfo Anokye Hos­pi­tal in Ku­masi, Uni­ver­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy, Uni­ver­sity of Cape Coast, poly­tech­nics and sec­ond school around the coun­try, Ako­sombo Dam, Adome Bridge and many more. As a man pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion ever since Pres­i­dent Kwame Nkrumah, no other gov­ern­ment in Ghana has em­barked on such a mas­sive in­fras­truc­tural devel­op­ment. Some of the in­fras­truc­tures listed above still re­main the main in­fra­struc­ture in many sec­tors of Ghana. Not­with­stand­ing the above eco­nomic lega­cies, it has been sug­gested that when Pres­i­dent Nkrumah be­came the leader of Ghana, Ghana had a much more promis­ing econ­omy com­pared to coun­tries such as the then Ivory Coast, now C’ôte d’Ivoire. No great man comes without faults. Pres­i­dent Nkrumah based sub­stan­tial parts of his devel­op­ment projects on the so­cial­ist model, which was usu­ally in­fe­rior in qual­ity to the West­ern stan­dards. Thus, some of the factories that he es­tab­lished would in the long run not be vi­able. He wasted a lot of money on his se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing us­ing for­eign per­son­nel as part of his se­cret ser­vice. He also spent money on his ide­o­log­i­cal school, which trained the young peo­ple he in­doc­tri­nated through his young pi­o­neer move­ment. Pres­i­dent Nkrumah gave about 10 mil­lion pounds of Ghana­ian money to Guinea be­cause they were re­belling against France. Con­se­quently, France with­drew its fi­nan­cial sup­port to Guinea. This was a very in­ap­pro­pri­ate and reck­less de­ci­sion, which would un­doubt­edly re­main the most se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial loss caused to the na­tion of Ghana. Ten mil­lion pounds in 1960s trans­lates to more than 450 mil­lion pounds in the value of to­day's cur­rency, as­sum­ing the amount had been in­vested and earn­ing an av­er­age in­ter­est rate

In 1957, Ghana was de­clared free by their Prime Min­is­ter Nkrumah, as it be­came a Com­mon­wealth realm. With years of hard work and po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­ver­ing, he de­clared his plans to make Ghana a repub­lic.

of 10% per year. It ap­pears that the abil­ity of Pres­i­dent Nkrumah to build nu­mer­ous in­fra­struc­ture projects in the early 1960s was pri­mar­ily due to the enor­mous amount of money his gov­ern­ment inherited from the Bri­tish and the high in­ter­na­tional price of co­coa at the time. How­ever, when the in­ter­na­tional price of co­coa be­gan to plum­met, he was un­able to meet the chal­lenges the econ­omy faced. Com­pound­ing the eco­nomic woes was the en­demic and ram­pant cor­rup­tion among his min­is­ters and poor eco­nomic plan­ning, which also contributed to his eco­nomic fail­ure. From 1960 on­wards, Dr Nkrumah be­gun to sup­press all forms of op­po­si­tion, firstly, by out­law­ing re­gional-based po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Ashan­ti­land, the North and the Volta re­gion. The op­po­si­tion par­ties had no choice but to unite. As the op­po­si­tion par­ties came to­gether un­der one um­brella, Dr Nkrumah used his par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity to ban all form of op­po­si­tion and de­clared Ghana a one party state, and all forms of con­struc­tive crit­i­cism were to­tally sup­pressed. Even­tu­ally, the sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated to such a de­gree that all op­po­nents were bru­tally sup­pressed, in­clud­ing peo­ple such as Dr J B Dan­quah, a prom­i­nent Ghana­ian politi­cian and lawyer, who was ar­rested on 8 Jan­uary 1964 for al­legedly be­ing im­pli­cated in a plot against the Pres­i­dent. He con­se­quently suf­fered a heart at­tack and died, while in de­ten­tion at Nsawam Medium Prison on 4 Fe­bru­ary 1965. EX­ILE AND DEATH In Fe­bru­ary 1966, soon af­ter in­au­gu­rat­ing the Volta Dam, Kwame Nkrumah left on a peace mis­sion to end the Viet­nam War, ac­com­pa­nied by se­nior mem­bers of his gov­ern­ment. How­ever, af­ter years of po­lit­i­cal sup­pres­sion, the in­evitable hap­pened as is so fre­quently the case with African pol­i­tics - on 24 Fe­bru­ary 1966, while Kwame Nkrumah was on his peace mis­sion in Viet­nam, he was over­thrown by a mil­i­tary coup. A junta of army and po­lice of­fi­cers, the Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Coun­cil (NLC) took over power and the Con­ven­tion Peo­ple’s Party (CPP) was sub­se­quently cut off from or­di­nary cit­i­zens who had suf­fered from an in­creas­ingly bad eco­nomic cli­mate in Ghana, per­pet­u­ated from one gov­ern­ment to an­other. Af­ter the mil­i­tary coup, Ghana strate­gi­cally re­aligned it­self with other coun­tries in­ter­na­tion­ally and also cut its close ties with Guinea and the East­ern Bloc, thereby ac­cept­ing a new al­liance with the West­ern Bloc. The gov­ern­ment also in­vited the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to take a lead­ing role in steer­ing the econ­omy. Kwame Nkrumah never re­turned to Ghana again and con­tin­ued to push for his vi­sion of African unity. At first, He lived in ex­ile in Con­akry, Guinea, as the guest of Pres­i­dent Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-pres­i­dent of the coun­try. While read­ing, writ­ing, cor­re­spond­ing and en­ter­tain­ing guests and de­spite re­tire­ment from pub­lic of­fice, he still felt threat­ened by West­ern in­tel­li­gence agen­cies. This caused him to live in con­stant fear of ab­duc­tion and as­sas­si­na­tion. In 1971 and in frail health, he flew to Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia, for med­i­cal treat­ment, but he suc­cumbed to prostate cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62. Nkrumah was buried in a tomb in the vil­lage of his birth, Nkro­ful, Ghana. While the tomb re­mains in Nkro­ful, his re­mains were trans­ferred to a large na­tional me­mo­rial tomb and park in Ac­cra. Kwame did leave a legacy for Africans, best known po­lit­i­cally for his strong com­mit­ment to and pro­mo­tion of Pan-African­ism. He was in­spired by the writ­ings of black in­tel­lec­tu­als such as Mar­cus Gar­vey, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Ge­orge Pad­more, and much of his un­der­stand­ing and re­la­tion­ship to these men was cre­ated dur­ing his years in Amer­ica as a stu­dent. Nkrumah be­came a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of the "African Per­son­al­ity", em­bod­ied in the slo­gan "Africa for the Africans” view­ing po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence as a pre­req­ui­site for eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence. His ded­i­ca­tion to Pan-African­ism in ac­tion at­tracted many in­tel­lec­tu­als to his Ghana­ian projects. How­ever, some would say Kwame Nkrumah's big­gest suc­cess in Pan-African­ism was his sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence in the found­ing of the then Or­gan­i­sa­tion of African Unity, now the Africa Union (AU). In his pri­vate life, Nkrumah mar­ried Fathia Ritzk, an Egyp­tian Coptic bank worker and for­mer teacher, bear­ing him three chil­dren: Ga­mal (born 1959), Samia (born 1960), and Sekou (born 1963). Ga­mal is a news­pa­per journalist, while Samia and Sekou are politi­cians. Nkrumah also has an­other son, Fran­cis (born 1962). “By far the great­est wrong, which the de­part­ing colo­nial­ists in­flicted on us, and which we now con­tinue to in­flict on our­selves in our present state of dis­unity, was to leave us di­vided into eco­nom­i­cally un­vi­able States, which bear no pos­si­bil­ity of real devel­op­ment….we must unite for eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity ”. Kwame Nkrumah’s words will forever be etched in the minds of Africans and never be for­got­ten.

Kwame Nkrumah in 1957. His first gov­ern­ment un­der colo­nial rule started from 21 March 1952 un­til in­de­pen­dence. How­ever, his first in­de­pen­dent gov­ern­ment took of­fice on 6 March 1957.

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